Monday, October 3, 2011

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

Over the weekend, I went and saw The Great American Trailer Park Musical. I had no idea what it would be about, but was pleased with the performance. It was written by Betsy Kelso and David Nehls, and originally presented in the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival. The version I saw at Pit and Balcony was directed by Jim Gaertner.

The program from Pit and Balcony

The musical was a comedy about a five characters living in Armadillo Acres. Linoleum "Lin", whose husband is on Death Row, Betty, who owns the trailer park, and Donna "Pickles," who is a married 17-year old who always believes she is pregnant, help take the audience through the story of what happened when Pippi, a stripper on the run from her crazy ex-boyfriend, Duke, moves into the trailer park. Two other characters in the play are Jeannie Garstecki, who became agoraphobic after her baby was kidnapped, and her husband Norbert Garstecki.
Cast in the Florida Community College Jackson version. *
While I have not read the script, I did pick up some aspects of the play that were probably part of the director's interpretation. Obviously the set design is one of these things. The set was two functional trailer fronts, one of which turned so the audience could see inside a small part of the front room, and one prop one in the back. There were Christmas lights stung up in front of all of the trailers and palm trees alongside of it. Another aspect would be the clothes. Lin, Betty, and Pickles had very few costume changes, primarily dealing with being different characters.Norbert had one or two, but it was minor-- just a shirt. Jeannie did not change at all. Pippi's costuming was definitely open for interpretation as a stripper. Her outfits were tastefully done, which is good considering most of the audience was older people. Also, her dance at the club was probably director's interpretation to do it G-rated for the audience.

The opening scene of the musical done by the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. *
Another director's interpretation was using the person who played Duke, Scott Warnke, to play a woman in some scenes. It added to the hilarity because he threw himself into the female role during the dream sequence in a set up similar to a show by Sally Jesse Rafael or Jerry Springer, for those who don't know the former. In another section the characters dress up as singers and this was probably another example of director's interpretation with the collaboration of the choreographer. Even as singers the actors put personality and character into the scene. In addition the use of the Lin, Pickles, and Betty to play animals for road kill. Whether or not the script called for this, the way they played  the part was probably the director's decision; especially the rigor mortis deer.

Kensington Arts Theatre's version.*
Overall, I enjoyed my night at Armadillo Acres inside Pit and Balcony. The singing was good, though there were some microphone issues to be worked out. I was saddened to see only the older generations in the audience, but know that is one of the issues that this theatre, as well as probably most, is struggling with. Younger and college age people do not go see the productions or even audition, which can limit the types of productions they do. The Great American Trailer Park Musical provided for an evening of laughter and entertainment.

* Unfortunately cameras are not allowed and they do not have any pictures up, so these were obtained through Google Image Search.

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